During the Monday's Council of the Princeton University Community meeting, University trustees referred West College and Robertson Hall atrium to the newly establishedCommittee on Naming.
Director of Media Relations John Cramer deferred comment to the University’s statement.
A new policy on naming programs, positions, and spaces that “do not currently bear names honoring donors or other individuals or groups” was established over the summer, the statement said.
The statement noted that the atrium in Robertson Hall is the “principal entryway into the Woodrow Wilson School.” Moreover, West College, located west of Cannon Green near Nassau Hall, is not yet named to honor any individual, family, or group. Robertson Hall was built in 1961, and West College was built in 1836.
The new committee, chaired by History Professor Angela Creager, is composed of professors, undergraduate students, graduate students, staff, and alumni representatives as well as University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee ’69. The committee is charged with soliciting opinion from the community about the potential names of the referred spaces.
Committee member Devin Kilpatrick ’19 noted that he thinks the selection of West College and the atrium of Robertson Hall is a “fantastic starting point as the University seeks to diversify the naming of campus buildings and spaces.”
“These spaces are both extremely visible and immediately recognizable, and I hope naming these spaces after diverse figures from Princeton's and the nation's past will help to make visible underrepresented communities, including women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQIA community,” he added.
The procedure for naming the identified campus spaces under the trustee policy includes soliciting community opinion for potential names, making a “confidential recommendation” to the Board of Trustees, which makes the final decision, according to the University statement.
Jamie O’Leary ‘19, founder of Princeton Students for Gender Equality, said that depending on who the trustees name the buildings after, it may or may not reflect gender equality.
“One the one hand, it’s great to see spaces being named after people who do great things in the community, but at the same time it does feel a little frustrating that two spaces that had unimportant names and don’t have much significance on campus being renamed while some of these problematic names are being left unquestioned,” O’Leary said.
Kilpatrick said that he also thinks that this is a step forward.
“While the selections of West College and Robertson Hall fall short of considering a new name for Wilson College and the Woodrow Wilson School, I believe that this is an honest effort by the University to examine its legacy and who it chooses to venerate,” Kilpatrick said. “I believe that students should be encouraged by the responsiveness of administration to their concerns, but of course I cannot claim to speak on behalf of all students.”
Moreover, O’Leary said that this is only a first step for the University.
“I feel like we should celebrate progress but at the same time there needs to be continued pressure on the university to do more,” O’Leary said.
In addition to the building names, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter presented updates from the Wilson Legacy Committee and the Special Task Force for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion during the meeting.
Minter noted that over the summer, the Diversity Peer Education program was launched and affinity spaces were created in the Carl A. Fields Center.
In addition, faculty and staff have been trained on the issues of bias, discrimination and harassment, as well as on diversity and inclusion, she said.On the Woodrow Wilson Legacy Committee, Minter noted that several of the committee's recommendations, including the Princeton Histories Fund and the Trustee Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, have been implemented, and other recommendations, such as the Ph.D Pipeline program, are under development.